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Choosing the Right Street Sweeper for the Job

courtesy of Elgin Sweeper Company, January 2023

5 Considerations When Choosing Your Next Sweeper

Elgin has continuously reinvented the street sweeping space since its introduction of the world's first motorized street sweeper in 1914. Now with a plethora of street sweepers for various applications and a suite of technology options, it can be overwhelming deciding which street sweeper will be the all-star for the job you're managing. That's why we're outlining some key considerations when making that choice.

1. Decide the application and type.

This should be the easiest part because you're the expert in your field, and you know how the sweeper will be used. Will it be used across your municipality? At an airport? In construction? Or at an industrial operation? There's an Elgin for each job. Plus, once you determine the application, you can finetune for specifics. For example, regenerative air sweepers are generally good for airports, and beyond that, the CrossWind GRS is designed specifically for airports and includes a glycol recovery system.

Sweepers use different methods to gather and remove debris, so it's crucial to understand these differences.

Mechanical Broom:

This type of sweeper uses a side broom to follow the contours of the road moving debris into a windrow for the main broom, which then flicks the surface debris up and onto a conveyor belt or squeegee elevator to deposit into the hopper. These traditional sweepers can clean up bulky, dense or fine as sand debris making them great for construction debris, early spring cleanup and after flooding.

Regenerative Air:

In this type of sweeper, side brooms again move debris into a windrow to be collected, but instead of a mechanical broom, regenerative air sweepers utilize an air-powered pickup head. The pressurized side of the pickup head agitates the surface of the pavement. Any debris entrained in the airstream is then transferred across the length of the pickup head through an 'air-knife,' while the suction side captures the airborne debris and carries it up and into the hopper.

The pickup head on regenerative air sweepers can collect heavier debris, such as leaves, but they really excel when picking up light and medium debris like sand and other fine particulates found at airports. At the start of the cleaning process water is sprayed, which adds mass to the material being collected to ensure that even the finest particles are picked up from the surface.

Pure Vacuum:

These sweepers use an open-ended air flow path, in which the suction of high-powered nozzles vacuum up debris that is then conveyed up and into the hopper where it settles out of the airflow path. Side brooms follow the contours of the road and move debris into the windrow for the suction nozzles. These are useful for dual-purposes including catch-basin cleaning.

Water-free Industrial Sweeper:

A waterless dust control system in this type of sweepers enables increased pickup of debris along with the safe removal of water-reacting materials. It easily handles heavy, compacted dirt and bulky debris as well making it ideal for industrial sweeping.

2. Look ahead to sustainability.

The industry, along with many others, is advancing toward ways to save energy. This includes a single-engine sweeper instead of dual engine. It also means hybrid technology. Elgin Sweeper provides two sweepers in this category: The Hybrid Broom Bear and Hybrid Pelican are plug-in hybrid electric street sweepers that help reduce fuel consumption while providing the same powerful performance of their non-hybrid counterparts.

3. Determine the maneuverability and distance to be covered.

Where will the sweeper be operating? If it's a crowded metro requiring the ability to maneuver around parked vehicles, you'll want a more compact sweeper with great maneuverability such as the three-wheeled Pelican, which offers 360-degree visibility. If the sweeper will need to travel a large distance, consider one of Elgin's many truck-mounted options. These units can handle tight situations like cul-de-sacs but can travel at highway speeds.

4. Understand how the choice impacts the operator.

Today's economy has made finding and retaining sweeper operators with a CDL license more difficult than previously. Also important – especially to contractors – CDL operators command premium wages. Elgin offers 4 sweepers that do not require a CDL – the Pelican, Broom Badger, 26K GVW Broom Bear, and 26K GVW RegenX. That's a difference that impacts today's ever-tightening recruitment pool for operators.

5. Consider uptime.

Your sweeper should be reliable. Consider the accessibility of areas that need regular service. You should also think about the system it uses – fewer moving parts means more reliability.

Editor's Note: For an even more thorough explanation of the various types of sweepers available in the U.S. marketplace, use this link to access a 10-page PDF developed by WorldSweeper's Editor entitled "Historical and Current Overview on Characteristics and Capabilities of Street-Class Power Sweepers."

About Elgin Sweeper Company

Sold and serviced through a network of more than 100 dealer locations worldwide, Elgin Sweeper products are the sweepers of choice for a variety of general street maintenance, special industrial and airport applications. With more than 100 years of experience, Elgin Sweeper offers municipalities, contractors and industries the most sweeper options in the country, using the latest sweeping technologies – mechanical, pure vacuum, regenerative air, alternative fuel and waterless dust control. Elgin Sweeper is a subsidiary of Federal Signal Corporation's Environmental Solutions Group. For more information, visit

About Parent Company Federal Signal

Elgin Sweeper is a subsidiary of Federal Signal Corporation's Environmental Solutions Group. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, with manufacturing facilities worldwide, the Company operates two groups: Environmental Solutions and Safety and Security Systems. For more information on Federal Signal, visit

Federal Signal builds and delivers quality equipment that moves material, cleans infrastructure and protects the communities where we work and live. Founded in 1901, Federal Signal is a leading global designer, manufacturer and supplier of products and total solutions that serve municipal, governmental, industrial and commercial customers.

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